Saturday, November 21, 2009

Open Letter to University of Utah Law Deans


I sent the following email to the “associate dean for admissions and financial aid,” Reyes Aguilar, and Dean Hiram Chodosh of the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law. The email was sent on Wednesday, November 18, 2009 at 12:46 pm. No changes have been made to this letter (other than redacting my name for purposes of this blog and including “a” in front of “100% response rate”). If anyone wants to see the original email sent out to these two men, you can email me and I will forward you a copy.

Employment statistics
Wednesday, November 18, 2009 12:46 PM
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Dean Hiram Chodosh
Dean Reyes Aguilar
S.J. Quinney College of Law
University of Utah
332 S. 1400 E., Room 101
Salt Lake City , UT 84112

Dear Reyes and Hiram,

Gentlemen, on your school’s materials, it states that 98% of graduates from the Class of 2008 were employed within 9 months of graduation. And, according to the representatives from your school, this is based off of [a] 100% response rate to the graduate survey.

The same material also claims that the median starting salary is $89,021 for the Class of 2008. Is this counting private and public employers? Is this also counting those graduates who are working in non-law positions? Does this median figure include those working as retail and insurance salespeople, school teachers, clerks, and research assistants?

Lastly, the school lists a starting salary range of $42,000-$215,000. So, does this mean that not one single graduate from 2008 found a job making less than $42,000? I find this incredibly hard to believe – isn’t there a large oversupply of lawyers and JDs in the U.S.? Since your school publishes and presents these figures to attract more applicants, would you be willing to submit these figures to an outside, independent audit?

Thank you.


(I have attached a copy of the S.J. Quinney College of Law “Facts at a Glance” handout that was supplied at the recent law school fair.)

Evidently, these men are NOT WILLING to submit their purported employment and starting salary statistics to an independent audit. They couldn't even send a reply to my letter.

I suggest you write a similar letter to your local law school representatives, or to the law school of your choice. (Make sure you do not attack them personally or slander them in any way - you simply want information from them.) ASK THEM TO PRODUCE PROOF of their placement success. Then send the your letter to law blogs or to local or national newspapers. The schools can easily redact any identifying info, such as name of firm, graduate, etc. Isn’t this what lawyers and law students are trained to do, i.e. ask questions, uncover information, and ask for proof?!?!?

Hold their feet to the fire. Offer to debate them in a public forum. Contact the newspapers or local radio station. I am sure there will be some interest. This is more likely to get results (or news coverage) than asking your respective State AG Office or DoJ to investigate the law school cartel.


  1. There should be no doubt that those statistics are absolutely, 100% bullshit. Average salary $89,000 my ass. This is criminal fraud right here, pure and simple. Law school is the biggest bait and switch scheme going.

  2. Those stats are definitely fraudulent. HOW do the schools get away with this?? This makes my blood boil. Keep exposing the racket!

  3. I don't know about the 100% response rate. Anything that is "100%" sounds a little made up.

    Though, I will say the numbers themselves are within the realm of possibility, if and only if that "215k" person or persons actually existed. If so, that person/those people would easily pull up the average for employed salaries. It's hard to figure how a graduate one year out could do such a thing, but if that one fact is true, then Utah's stats are mathematically possible. it might not be that hard to figure out. There must be some way of figuring out who that 215k person who graduated from Utah in 2008 is. The pool of possibilities is relatively small, no?

    My best guess is that the one (or a couple) of people who make high figures like that are relatively older execs that went to law school just to get the J.D. to boost their image or whatever. Moreover, these types of people actually get paid by their companies to go to school, so they don't incur debt. I was actually surprised when I went to school how many people go on their company's dime (or at least partial dime. I believe the company would pay up to 10k a year or some such figure, and this was 6 years ago).

    As for the range, I also think it's quite possible that of all the permanently employed people, 42k is the base. I might have an east coast bias here, but 42k is a reasonable entry level type figure even for schoolteachers or insurance salesmen. The part I would really question is the percentage employed. But taking from the employed subset of the graduates, those numbers are plausible. 42-215 range, and 80ish average (strongly boosted by the 215k types).

    Independent audits are an interesting idea, but I don't know how reasonable that would be. Some type of audit arranged by an accrediting organization is perhaps reasonable. A random audit might not be so much. I would consider information about graduates to be pretty sensitive and private.

  4. ...which is why the schools should redact the name of the employer and the name of the graduate. Social service providers constantly handle sensitive info, and they don't just give any identifying info over to outside organizations.

    The law schools could do this if they were required to, but the ABA does not require (or even encourage) independent audits. I think this blog author, and the other bloggers, are onto something: law school IS designed to enrich the professors and lenders at the expense of the student.

  5. Drake Mallard,

    Good, insightful post. The average can be impacted/altered significantly by such a high salary. Median is a better measurement, for this reason alone.

    That being said, Utah is a low-wage state. A law degree from the University of Utah does not set one apart as one of the elite – it is a good school currently ranked in the bottom of the first tier, by USN&WR. Also, this employment figure presumably counts graduates who are working in non-law industries. Those working in retail sales, teaching K-12, or office management are not going to be making anywhere near the alleged average starting salary.

    The schools are not required, by the ABA or any government agency, to put their numbers through an independent audit. This means that the schools will not do so, of their own volition. After all, the schools MUST compete for rankings on the all-powerful USN&WR.

    That being said, there are a number of ways to preclude sensitive info from getting out to the public. And frankly, the public does not need to know that “Bob Anderson” at XYZ Law Firm started out at $151,000. What we need, however, is good and accurate employment and starting salary info so that prospective law students and their parents, can make a better-informed, economic decision.

    Lastly, I do not think that the ABA or a state bar association would be reliable or credible enough to perform such an audit. These organizations have a vested interest in keeping up the façade of lawyer success, so that more people apply to law school and lawyer pay can continue to fall. Remember, bar associations are there to primarily serve Biglaw. An independent audit by an uninterested agency or accounting firm is needed.

  6. Hey, guy. In your all your rambling hostility and bitterness, you got 'median' confused with average. The school should have responded to you, even just to point this out to you. get a hobby or something.

  7. 100% response rate?

    All you have to do is find one guy who never received (or never submitted) a survey to prove these stats are BS.

  8. I love it when people call Nando bitter or pick on minutia because they don't like to hear what he has to say. No one likes to be told that they might be making the wrong decision. I think that blogging is actually a great hobby. At least Nando is helping people. What have you done for anyone? 11/22, 8:12?

  9. I am considering law school. This info definitely has me thinking. I hoped to graduate from the U of U in the future. I like to hear both sides of the coin to help me make a more informed dicision. Thanks for blogging. I will be taking a better look at what I can expect.

  10. when will said "you got 'median' confused with average.", doesn't that mean that the school is saying that half the graduates were starting at over $89,000? isn't that a less credible statistic than average? does anyone reading believe it? i am not informed enough to know for sure.

  11. sorry, i meant anonymous said (above will's post).

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